Strength training is a core part of our program because we feel that it is one of the most simple yet effective ways to develop fitness, especially for those who are new to working out. It is fun and exciting to see yourself progress, and at some point you are more than likely going to want to see what you can do (usually by means of a one rep max). But what exactly is the purpose of testing a rep max, and when is the best time to do that?
Think of a rep max as a math test. (No, not plate math.) The goal of a math test is to assess what you already know. You are not going to learn anything new while taking the test, but it will reflect how much you have learned. Likewise, the goal of a rep max is to test the strength you have developed. It will not contribute to or further develop your strength. So, in short, we incorporate a strength cycle to get stronger and, at the end, we use a rep max to assess the effectiveness of that cycle.
So, when is the best time to test your strength, and how should you go about doing it? Let’s refer back to our comparison of a math test. In order to get the best result, you’re going to need to know the subject matter well. Otherwise, you’re going to have a bad time. Similarly, if your intent is to test your one rep max back squat, but you have been training with sets of eight to twelve or haven’t even been training the squat at all, there is not going to any carryover. You also want to make sure that you are testing under ideal conditions, at least to the best of your ability. If you are behind on sleep, your nutrition has fallen to the wayside, or you have just finished a workout, you will be much better off testing at a different time.
Simply put, a rep max is a tool we use to assess the effectiveness of our strength program after we have put in the consistent work. (That is, after we have trained specifically for it with a strength cycle.) It should be planned and with a purpose. Outside of those parameters there isn’t much benefit, if at all. If you follow the program and trust the process, you will make sustainable progress!